About 6 weeks ago my husband stumbled across a shocking piece of information when researching his family tree. After bringing up the 1940 US Census from Indianapolis, Indiana and locating his father’s name, he was dumbfounded to find that the woman listed as his father’s wife, was not his mother. He yelled up from downstairs for me to come look at what he’d found. My husband was so shocked by what he’d discovered, that he asked me to examine the document on the computer screen because he didn’t trust his own eyes. Sure enough, the woman listed as his father’s wife was not his mother. It wouldn’t be until 1948, eight years from that census, before his father would marry the woman my husband called Mom.
My husband immediately began calling members of his family to ask if they had any knowledge of his father’s earlier marriage. His own brothers had no idea and had never heard any mention of their father having been married before. My husband couldn’t ask his own mother because she had passed away several years ago, as did many relatives in the family. There was only one thing left to do, begin the journey of uncovering who this mystery woman was and why she was kept a secret.
If you’ve read either one of my books, Bird or The Fireflies of Estill County you know that I love a good mystery, and this one is just too good to pass up. We have begun piecing together this family puzzle, but I can’t help but begin some fictional playing with this event. For me as a writer, it only takes the spark of a good idea to ignite the flame. So, I’ve written a brief paragraph just out of the gate as a possible new novel idea. I use a woman as the main character who makes the discovery instead of a man. I’m sharing with you the very raw beginning, but would love your feedback. Please let me know what you think of this story line and whether this might be something you would enjoy reading. I thought it would be fun to let my readers have some initial input.
Below is a short beginning. PS – the portrait of the woman is my own sketch and what I envision this mystery woman to look like. The woman listed on the 1940 Census is named “Ruth” but in a way of paying tribute to her, I kept part of her name and went with Emily Ruth.
“This can’t be right,” she said in disbelief as she starred at the computer screen, desperate to make sense out of what she was seeing. She squinted her eyes, thinking the problem was just blurred vision from too much time on the computer. She had located her father on line thirty-three of the 1940 United States Census. There he was, William O’Brien, husband, twenty-nine years of age, occupation, engineer. But finding him wasn’t the confusing part. That came on line thirty-four with the name Emily Ruth O’Brien, listed as wife, twenty-two years of age, occupation, seamstress. “There has to be some mistake,” she whispered, afraid of saying it too loud for fear of making it real. Had she just stumbled across a female skeleton in the family closet, a woman by the name of Emily Ruth that most definitely was not her mother.